A $1.65 Billion Investment in Knowledge Creation

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine has formally unveiled the monster higher-ed bond referendum that I alluded to last week. His plan would raise $1.65 billion to pay for some 75 projects on public colleges, universities and community colleges over the next five to 10 years.

In the press release announcing the initiative, Kaine emphasized that R&D and workforce development were his priorities. Says the press release:

“The proposed bond package supports innovative research, providing facilities across Virginia for researchers to develop new, cutting-edge technologies and turn them into commercial assets,” Governor Kaine said. “Our colleges and universities also help us build a workforce prepared to compete in a global economy. These investments will help Virginia’s higher education network keep delivering for our future.”

The new construction and renovation projects in the package primarily focus on workforce development, enhancing capacity, retaining students, research and providing modern facilities for areas with demonstrated needs, such as education, engineering, nursing, business, and the sciences.

Kaniacs highlighted the following:

  • $7.5 million of general fund support over the biennium is provided to Jefferson Labs to leverage a $300 million investment by the federal government for an enhanced accelerator facility
  • $1 million in fiscal year 2010 to Hampton University to support a new proton beam cancer therapy facility
  • Over $2 million for the Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium in efforts to explore alternative forms of energy
  • $7 million dollars for the creation of the SRI east coast research facility near Harrisonburg

You can view a list of all the projects here. A quick scan of the projects suggests that there is indeed a heavy emphasis on science and workforce development — that’s not just empty rhetoric. Without commenting on the merits of specific projects, I would support those priorities overall. I don’t see that Virginia needs a lot of new sociology and English majors. We do need scientists, engineers, nurses and even teachers. To prosper in a globally competitive economy, Virginia must invest in knowledge creation and the development of human capital.

Addendum: It looks like House Speaker William J. Howell is generally supportive of the initiative. As Howell stated in a press release issued yesterday:

Educational research is crucial to Virginia’s competitiveness, economic development and future job opportunities. Companies want to locate or expand near colleges and universities – which are powerful engines contributing to progress, discovery and prosperity – to take advantage of a well-educated and well-trained workforce. For these and many more reasons, all of us understand and value the return on investment provided by our outstanding community colleges, and our public four-year colleges and universities.

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2 responses to “A $1.65 Billion Investment in Knowledge Creation”

  1. Norman Leahy Avatar
    Norman Leahy

    “I don’t see that Virginia needs a lot of new sociology and English majors.”

    As an English major myself, Jim, though one educated in Colorado, I suppose it’s my obligation to resent that statement.

  2. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Norm, Please note that I omitted history majors from the list of unneeded disciplines. (Can you guess what my degree is in?)

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